Is Ubaldo Jimenez the Rockies Worst Starting Pitcher?

Very few pitchers over the last couple of seasons have been as fun to watch as Ubaldo Jimenez. The right-hander has made two straight Opening Day starts and has since been tagged with "ace" status. As the Rockies success over the last two plus years has gone from "hottest team in baseball" all the way to "what is going on with this team?" it's been largely in part to the success and failure of Ubaldo.

The Rockies have gotten off to a fantastic start this year. With a 16-7 record to boast, almost each and every component on the Rockies squad has contributed in some way. Ubaldo Jimenez is one of the few men in Purple who hasn't generated the Rox at least 0.1 wins. To go along with that, he looks to be the same Ubaldo to whom we saw during the second half of the 2010 season -- That would be a pitcher who walks almost a whole hands worth of batters per start and can't get through 6 or 7 innings like he's been known to do. Alas, his FIP since June 26th (his first start in 2010 where he gave up more than 4 ER's) is 3.95. Since then, we've seen his walk total and HR/FB rates increase while his K rate decrease. He simply hasn't been the same pitcher to whom we saw breeze through each and every inning of the first two months or so of the 2010 season.

On the other hand, his counter parts and fellow starting pitchers have improved dramatically. Jason Hammel, Jhoulys Chacin, Esmil Rogers, and Jorge De La Rosa are the four starters who have accompanied Ubaldo in the Rockies rotation over the last calendar year or so (with a few spot starts here and there from others). This is what the Rockies rotation is now and is expected to be barring any unexpected circumstances. Judging 2011 numbers based on four or five starts is irresponsible. Thus, the current Rockies five in 2010...

Rockies_medium

Again, the point is that since late June Ubaldo has gone backwards and changed. This just shows that despite his amazing start the other Rockies pitchers were still better as a whole. This could be a sentiment for Ubaldo Jimenez regressing, but not regressing as much as Chacin, Hammel, De La Rosa, and Esmil Rogers are improving. As I said previously, Ubaldo's FIP of 3.95 since June 26th, 2010 certainly isn't bad but it's the worst out of the hive five (corny, I know). There's been no honest truth as to why Ubaldo has turned in to a walk machine. Some say it's mechanical and some say it's the real Ubaldo. Nevertheless, he didn't come back any better this year even though he did spent some time on the shelf opening the season. Here are the Rockies five in 2011...

Rockies2_medium

Ubaldo Jimenez has since regressed since his first few months of 2010. Hec, he's regressed a lot. He's failed to pitch deeper in to games and has simply walked his way out of his outings. Sure, mechanics could be the issue but you'd expect the Rockies management to be able to fix that when he pitched during the Spring. They didn't, and he's already been on the shelf in the early year. Thus, that's why it's irresponsible to judge him based on his '11 starts even though they are actual outings and Chacin, Hammel, Rogers, and De La Rosa haven't missed starts due to injuries.

Talk about mechanical problems, Ubaldo's velocity on his fastball and slider as well as the effectiveness of the respective pitches have all gone for not. To put that in to context, Ubaldo's average fastball velocity this year has been 92.3, almost four miles per hour slower than his 96.1 average last year. His slider has decreased 3.1 MPH now sitting at 83.5. Having boasted a fastball last year that was exactly 30 runs above average his fastball this year has been -2.2 runs above average -- Not good.

Who knows if Ubaldo is the Rockies worst starting pitcher. As I stated before, Chacin and Hammel are really improving which could make them better than Ubaldo regardless of how good or bad he pitches. Same goes for Esmil Rogers for that matter. However, he's been a disaster in plenty of ways since late June and hasn't turned it around. Having pitched a splendid game this past weekend against the Marlins following his injury, the Rockies hope it's something to build on. With that said, it's going to take a lot for Ubaldo to get back to Ubaldo. Until then, he's got some competition from his counterparts who are trying to dethrone him of the "ace" status.

 

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